The Great Barrier Reef…
The Great Barrier Reef stretches for over 2,000 kilometres off the eastern coast of Australia. It consists of 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands. It is the world’s largest coral reef. Packed with amazing beauty and recognised as a World Heritage Site, it is also one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World. It is big, a definite must-see and confusing for anyone planning to visit!
This is an Aussie’s guide to the Great Barrier Reef. It is a local’s lowdown with short, helpful information on where to go, what to do and when to visit …
So where to go & what to do?
Hmm, this is tough! You may have heard of some gorgeous coastal towns such as Port Douglas or Palm Cove. Or the town of 1770…. plus, other places like Cairns, Hamilton Island, Heron Island or Airlie Beach.
These are all fantastic launch pads to dive in and explore the magnificent Great Barrier Reef. But essentially you can break it down into mainland towns versus Islands. Let me explain….
Heart Reef. Photo by Mia Glastonbury, Tourism & Events Queensland
Your Great Barrier Reef experience from a mainland town will be a fast catamaran ride out to a pontoon/dive site where you will base yourself for a day or overnight. One way can be up to 1:5 hours. Allow a full day with over 4 hours on the Great Barrier Reef itself.
The main launch spots in Far North Queensland are Cairns and Port Douglas. You can choose operators that take a minimum of 30 or a maximum of 350! The bigger operators have more toys to play with, expect glass bottom boats, helicopter rides, toddler wading pools, semi-submersible tours, underwater observatories, Seawalker helmet diving and the list goes on. The smaller operators offer a completely personal nature experience focused mainly around snorkelling and diving.
I would always recommend the smaller group tours unless some in your group are not keen on snorkelling or diving, then the bigger tours are the way to go as they still offer the Great Barrier Reef experience without being in the water if you don’t want to…
Particularly good for young families, the islands on the Great Barrier Reef are a great way to relax and enjoy the reef without all the travel time. Think Hamilton Island, Heron Island, Lady Elliot Island, Hayman Island….the list goes on! You also have the added bonus of kid’s clubs so that both parents can do a spot of diving whilst the children are also having a great time!
When to go?
The Great Barrier Reef is located in the tropics and hence accessible year-round. So, expect warm weather and perfect snorkelling conditions! You do want to avoid rain as that can play havoc with water visibility.
There has been lots in the media recently about climate change (and the resulting warmer waters), and how this is having a great impact on our coral reefs around the world…. including the Great Barrier Reef.
It is very important to note that there is minimal coral damage south of Port Douglas, and the very southern section has very little coral lost. So, make sure to visit the areas on the Great Barrier Reef which have very little damage!
Now here’s another hint ….
don’t view your Great Barrier Reef visit in isolation!
The last consideration is definitely about bundling your Great Barrier Reef visit with what else to do in the area. This is where the Far North wins hands down! Not only do you have the Great Barrier Reef but you also have the double whammy of another World Heritage site, the Daintree Rainforest (top three world’s oldest Rainforest).
But that is entirely another story, so in the meantime……
Make sure to ask us the where/when/what is best re the Great Barrier Reef. We are happy to help with your planning to make sure your Australia Holiday is your best ever!